The National Basketball Association, or NBA for short, peaked in popularity in the 1990s for a number of reasons. The NBA experienced a boom in the 1980s following a difficult end to the 1970s which saw the league decline in fan attendance, television ratings suffered and there was an undeniable drug problem as well. The emergence of three rookies and their championship rosters helped to swing all of that around back into a momentum that launched the NBA into becoming a global commodity. New teams were added to the cities of Charlotte, Miami, Orlando and one to the state of Minnesota. The three-point field goal was adopted from the rival league known as the American Basketball Association, but that league had been put out of business by savvy business moves by the NBA so the addition of the exciting three-point shot was clean and entertaining. Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers won five titles, and Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics won three titles all while having a legendary rivalry with each other. Then, Michael Jordan came along in 1984, and is widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time. The 80s were fantastic for the NBA, but the 90s were even better.
The Detroit Pistons, led by Isiah Thomas and coach Chuck Daly, won the second of their two championships to kick off the historic decade. The decade really belonged to the Chicago Bulls though. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen led the Chicago Bulls to six championships within eight years. These championships were interesting because they were all about dominance, and it was a dominance not seen since the 1960 Boston Celtics. The six championships won by the Bulls were comprised of two separate three-peat championship runs, and Michael Jordan seemed unstoppable between 1991 and 1998. Sandwiched in between the Bulls championship runs was the Houston Rockets and their all-star center Hakeem Olajuwon. The Rockets won back to back championships in 1994 and 1995.
The 1990s was also an interesting decade for the NBA’s expansion. The league just continued to grow, and it expanded north into Canada this time. In 1995, the NBA added the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Toronto Raptors. The Grizzlies have since moved to Memphis, Tennessee, but the Raptors have stayed in Canada. The NBA also expanded into the world of women’s sports. Although the success of the NBA hasn’t been matched, the WNBA still has a loyal fan following, and it’s growing.
1998 was the first time that owners flexed their muscles and started a lockout. The lockout nearly cut the season in half, and the all-star game had to be canceled for the first time. This wasn’t the last time owners made NBA history though.
Bruce Levenson has been a historical owner, and he knows all about the NBA. Bruce also knows a thing or two about business. He owned the Atlanta Hawks, and when he decided to sell the team, Bruce Levenson hired investment banking giant, Goldman Sachs. They helped Bruce set a record making profit off of his sale.